Pakistani court quashes final case against Zardari

March 14th, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
Islamabad, March 14 (DPA) A Pakistani court Friday dismissed the last of seven corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari, widower of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, opening the way for him to become the next prime minister, his lawyer said. In the final case dismissed Friday, Zardari had been accused of illegally importing a BMW car. Five of the cases were dismissed March 5 and his bank accounts, which had been frozen, were opened. A sixth case was dismissed March 12.

“Thank God the agony is over,” his lawyer Farooq Naik told reporters. “Today the truth has prevailed.”

Zardari was arrested after his wife Benazir Bhutto was forced out of office in 1996. The couple allegedly stole millions of dollars from the state and hid it in secret accounts around Europe. Both denied the charges.

He served eight years in jail and was freed in 2004. He then joined his wife in exile in Dubai and only returned to Pakistan late last year after Bhutto was assassinated.

“Justice has been served. Zardari, who has been falsely implicated in several reference (corruption) cases because of political reasons, has been acquitted in all the cases,” Naik said.

Zardari took over Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) following her assassination on Dec 27 last year and the dismissal of criminal cases against him clears the way for him to contest elections.

He is now a front-runner to be the next prime minister. The PPP won the most votes, but not enough for an absolute majority, in the Feb 18 general election, forcing it to form a coalition with two other parties.

Once called “Mr 10 percent,” because that is the amount in commission he allegedly got for each major government contract, Zardari preferred to stay away from the polls.

Zardari’s party has formed a coalition with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and the secular nationalist Awami National Party. The coalition holds about a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Parliament convenes Monday but the PPP has yet to name its choice for prime minister, with Zardari and several other PPP heavyweights in the running.

Having won the most seats in the election, PPP is entitled to choose the next prime minister.

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